Title : Raavanan
Director : Mani Ratnam
Producer : Madras Talkies
Music Director : A.R.Rahman
Casting : Vikram, Aishwarya Rai, Prithviraj, Priyamani, Prabhu, Karthik muthraman, Ranjitha, Vaiyapuri.
The Story : Let's get this Straight. Raavanan is not Mani Ratnam's attempt to venerate the epic villain whose name the movie is titled after. It's not also a study on comples human relationships Weighed Weighed down by trust, conviction or quandary. It's pure cinematic retreat spanning across the dense jugles of Southern and Central India With exceptional cinematography (Santosh Sivan and Manikandan), by-now cult songs (A.R.Rahman) and interesting Performances by its lead actors. And the significance of the movie appears in the same order mentioned above.
Mani's conviction of illustrating an unachievable love story between the two leads (Aishwarya Rai and Vikram) is palpable from the very start of the movie. However, the blossoming of love doesn't quite form the back bone of Raavanan so much. The movie digresses into other aspects - a man hunt, flash backs, revenge drama and so on and so forth. The man hunts lack dexterity. the revenge drama that is triggered by the death of Vikram's sister seems engineered and Prithviraj often comes across as stiff - Showing unnecessary tautness in the character that is probably designed to defy emotions (may be because he is in his Khakis?).
But all that is absolved, as the movie stunningly unfolds often drenching itself in the monsoonal deluge making you feel rain-soaked. If you have any doubt about Mani's eternal love affair with rain, Raavanan stands as a remarkable testimony. It rains in the song sequences. in encounters and in emotional scenes. And at other instances, the sky is constantly downcast as if threatening to pour down. And the cinematography captures it all in delightful exuberance.
For the most part, Vikram owns the movie seizing it magnificently even from Mani's own hands. His love blooms out of astonishment at the outwardly courage displayed by Aishwarya Rai and he makes those scenes persuasive for the viewer. He infuses life into the character and shows no jaggedness, falling for a married woman thus replicating, probably the characters of Raavanan. Suhasini's profound dialogues come in havdy in many places and the viewer is made to read between lines quite often.
Aishwarya Rai's semblance of the late Padmini is unmistakable, it could be her dialogues or the way she manages her composure attebtively even in the hardest of terrains the character puts her through. The lady sure has attempted to reach on par with Vikram in performance in many sequences. Kudos to Mani for a dignified portrayal of his lead woman. There is a refreshing strength in Ragini's character brought out well by Aishwarya.
Prithvi plays a toughie police officer and somehow his character portrayal leaves a few questions unansered: for instance, his love for Aishwarya Rai is weighed down by his commitment and that singular fact does not come across convincingly.
Priyamani plays the ill-fated Vennila and leaves a lump in your throat. Karthik in his second innings steals the show. Prabhu and Munna play support roles that edd and flow with the movie.
Cinematography by Santosh Sivan is brilliant and has rendered the perfect support for Mani. His probing lens takes the audience through the thick jungles, the mighty waterfalls and the rough terrains of India. Music and art direction play equally momentous role in Raananan as its lead actors. If not for Rahman's songs and background score. Vikram's unrequited love wouldn't have been so painful for us. The songs have already been much debated about and leave no scope for further discussion. One word though: it's not for nothing "Usure Pogude...." has achieved a cult status. You tend to try hard not to fall in love but fail with the song as Vikram heaves a sigh of relief, having seen Aishwarya Rai breathing and alive after a steep fall.
Sameer Chanda's art direction complements the ruggedness and splendid beauty of the nature in the jungles so well you refuse to believe anything is man-made.
A major drawback is the lack of 'Tamil' feel in the film and its music; it more appears for the audience north of Vibdhyas in many places. What Mani loses out is the pace over the later part of the first half; he gains it back with a major twist in the climax. Although you have a few questions about the incidents leading to the finale, those are done away with - thanks to the elegiac climax.